Q&A: What musical artists started off strong and then had a major drop off in terms of quality?

ROBERT G writes ...

Yes, Rod Stewart. Elton John, too. But I remind, the “major drop off in terms of quality” is subjective, of course. Therefore we answer in terms of our opinions.

For me, maybe others, too, it is about the integrity that one builds within his/her fanbase, friends, etc. Like it or not, a bond of sorts exists between an artist and their audience. Stewart has been careful in his career choices, much to his good fortune and one can’t rule out those successes, but he’s not the same guy that I respected in the early days. It’s not entirely his fault, as the industry itself encourages these changes when potential profits indicate. It is, after all, a business to make money. The sad thing is that his music followed the same downward trajectory. I’d think lots of younger folks today would be disappointed by “The Rod Stewart Album”, or “Gasoline Alley”, for example.

One can say, “Is anyone immune; don’t we all change?” Sure, but a few notables come to mind: Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, Ian Anderson, Levon Helm, Tom Petty, Brian Wilson, George Strait, Carole King, Lowell George, Joni Mitchell, Paul Rodgers, David Byrne, James Taylor, Ray Charles, Fagen/Becker, Todd Rundgren, George Harrison, Leon Russell, Neil Young. These folks, and others, did and do things in their own way and haven’t significantly strayed from their early vision. Their product may not please everyone, but it is what they want to do, done on their own terms. IMO, the integrity they represented from their early days hasn’t been hugely compromised, and most of the time, it’s reflected in the quality of their music. Stewart and John both capitulated and their music followed.

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